SAN JOSE, Calif. — Broadcom and Freescale rolled out separate interfaces and software for the OpenFlow standard at the Open Networking Summit here. They want to ride a rising wave of interest in software-defined networking, an emerging style of communications that's captured broad inteest but still in an early phase of development.
Software-defined networking (SDN) promises networks that are simpler to set up and manage. It aims to move network tasks that currently run on a variety of proprietary ASICs and operating systems accessed by complex sets of vendor-specific interfaces and protocols to C-language programs run on Linux servers.
Google was one of the early proponents of SDN for its big datacenter networks. At this week's event, AT&T and NTT will talk about their work in SDN.
The OpenFlow standards for implementing SDN are still in an early stage. Broadcom and Freescale announced chip-specific interfaces to the current OpenFlow version 1.3, hoping it might be the first version to see significant commercial adoption.
"It's early days, and none of these things are well established yet," said Bob Wheeler, senior analyst for Linley Group. "I think there's real progress being made, but when you start from zero with a new protocol and architecture, it takes time."
Chips from vendors such as Broadcom and Freescale offer the best performance for running SDN jobs, he said. However, software implementations do a better job tracking advances in the fast-moving standards.
Broadcom announced its OpenFlow Data Plane Abstraction (OF-DPA), an SDN interface it started work on in the fall of 2012. OF-DPA lets networking programs using OpenFlow version 1.3.1 access networking tables implemented in Broadcom's Trident family of StrataXGS switch chips.
The interface lets systems run OpenFlow tasks such as creating virtual networks across multiple locations and managing traffic flows for Hadoop jobs. A beta version of the interface and tools are available online under the Apache 2.0 license. General availability is expected by the end of March.
Broadcom developed the interface with two carriers (which it did not name), as well as engineers from the comms systems group of NEC and BigSwitch Networks, a supplier of SDN software. Quanta and Interface Masters Technologies have switches supporting the interface, and BigSwitch will show software using it at the event.
"The goal is to enable an ecosystem of OpenFlow apps," said Sujal Das, a director of product marketing for Broadcom's networking group told us. "This can take OpenFlow from kicking the tires to real deployment." Broadcom plans updates to the interface supporting features that are popular with service providers, including multiprotocol label switching.
Next page: Freescale rolls SDN for QorIQ